How do I pronounce the -ed ending?

English pronunciation

Most of us know that in order to form the simple past or past participle form of a regular verb, we need to add the endinged or d to the verb. That’s an easy rule to remember. (Well, certainly much easier than memorizing all those irregular verb forms!) The pronunciation of the –ed ending, however, can be a bit tricky. There are three different ways of pronouncing –ed:

/ɪd/ as in wanted

/d/ as in learned

and /t/ as in washed.

Now, how do we know which pronunciation of –ed to use? Thankfully, there is a rule for that, too!  

Verbs whose base form ends in the sound /t/ or /d/ are in the /ɪd/ category. Here are a few examples:

wanted: the final sound in want is /t/, thus once we add –ed to the verb, we pronounce it as /ɪd/

added: the final sound in add is /d/, thus once we add -ed to the verb, we pronounce it as /ɪd/

Now, before we move on to the other two ways of pronouncing –ed, let’s review voiced and voiceless sounds. So voiced sounds make your vocal cords vibrate when you pronounce them. They include: all vowels as well as /b/, /g/, /v/, /z/, /ð/, /ʒ/, /dʒ/, /w/, /m/, /n/, and /l/. Voiceless sounds, in contrast, do not make your vocal cords vibrate when you pronounce them. They include: /p/, /k/, /f/, /s/, /θ/, /ʃ/, and /tʃ/.

Voiced Sounds + /d/

Verbs whose base form ends in a voiced sound other than /d/ are in the /d/ category. Here are a few examples:

robbed: the final sound in rob is /b/, thus once we add –ed to the verb, we pronounce it as /d/

mugged: the final sound in mug is /g/, thus once we add –ed to the verb, we pronounce it as /d/

saved: the final sound in save is /v/, thus once we add –d to the verb, we pronounce it as /d/

bathed: the final sound in bathe is /ð/, thus once we add –d to the verb, we pronounce it as /d/

amazed: the final sound in amaze is /z/, thus once we add -d to the verb, we pronounce it as /d/

Voiceless Sounds + /t/

Lastly, verbs whose base form ends in a voiceless sound other than /t/ are in the /t/ category. Here are a few examples:

skipped: the final sound in skip is /p/, thus once we add –ed to the verb, we pronounce it as /t/

faked: the final sound in fake is /k/, thus once we add –d to the verb, we pronounce it as /t/

stuffed: the final sound in stuff is /f/, thus once we add –ed to the verb, we pronounce it as /t/

missed: the final sound in miss is /s/, thus once we add –ed to the verb, we pronounce it as /t/ 

polished: the final sound in polish is /ʃ/, thus once we add –ed to the verb, we pronounce it as /t/

Want to learn and practice more? Check out this video on the pronunciation of -ed endings with Jennifer ESL.

Now, let’s try this activity:

Choose the correct pronunciation of the -ed ending for each of the verbs below:

  1. watched ( /ɪd/, /d/, /t/ )
  2. planted ( /ɪd/, /d/, /t/ )
  3. installed ( /ɪd/, /d/, /t/ )
  4. planned ( /ɪd/, /d/, /t/ )
  5. waited ( /ɪd/, /d/, /t/ )
  6. mended ( /ɪd/, /d/, /t/ )

Did you get them right? Check your answers below.

ANSWER KEY: 1. /t/, 2./ɪd/, 3. /d/, 4. /d/, 5. /ɪd/, 6. /ɪd/


Joanna Rodzen-Hickey

Joanna Rodzen-Hickey has been an ESL teacher and consultant for nearly 20 years. She has taught English at numerous universities and community colleges in New Jersey and currently teaches at the Hackettstown High School in Hackettstown, NJ.